I, for one, was happy to see former Massachusetts governor
Bill Weld enter the Republican primary this week. I’m not ready to line up
behind Weld, especially since there may be other candidates who have yet to
enter the race, but I welcome the addition of a second choice for Republican
voters and may very well end up supporting him.
Many of my Republican friends have made several predictable
objections against Weld’s candidacy such as the fact that Weld is not a true
conservative since he is liberal on many issues and that he has not won an
election since 1994. Ironically, many of the objections against Weld apply to
Donald Trump as well.
First off, let’s establish that there is no consistent
conservative in the race. While Weld is libertarian (read “liberal”) on social
issues, President Trump is to the left of Weld on a great many issues as well.
Any conservative is going to have to look past either candidate on quite a few
issues. Conservatives who backed Trump over the past four years should have
little difficulty supporting another Republican with inconsistent conservative
While Mr. Trump has a good record on some issues, he has a
bad record on others. President Trump gets credit for tax reform, deregulation,
and judicial appointments as well as withdrawing from the Paris Accords and
issuing a number of pro-life Executive Orders, but his conservative bona fides
don’t extend much further than that.
In reality, Mr. Trump’s tax reform and deregulation are
offset by his trade war. The president’s affinity for tariffs has led to large
increases in both taxes and regulations when it comes to trade. The trade war
the trade deficit to a record high while weakening
American manufacturing and hurting farmers. Trump’s trade policies have slowed growth to
Obama-like levels while his bailout of farmers hurt by the trade war
billion to the deficit, which is growing at an alarming rate.
Mr. Weld’s position on gun control has been a frequent
objection, but Donald Trump is the most successful anti-gun president since
Bill Clinton. After the Parkland school shooting in February 2018, Trump
signaled his willingness
to accept a variety of gun control measures. His openness to a new assault
rifle ban made Dianne
Feinstein literally jump for joy. Mr. Trump’s unilateral decision to use
the federal bureaucracy to ban
bump stocks is the anti-gun left’s biggest victory since President Clinton
signed the original “assault weapons” ban in 1994.
Policy aside, the Buckley rule should lead conservatives to
consider alternatives to Donald Trump. In the past, I’ve argued that even after
four years in the public eye that Mr. Trump was too erratic and had a closet
too full of skeletons to be a viable candidate in 2020. In backing Trump and
shutting out primary challengers, Republicans would be running the risk that
the president would implode prior to the election, as he almost did in 2016,
and leave the party without a standard bearer.
Thankfully, Mr. Trump’s implosion happened this week rather
a few weeks before the election. Although the Trump Administration claims that Special
Counsel Robert Mueller’s failure to find a criminal conspiracy and decision not
to recommend charges on obstruction of justice represent an exoneration of the
president, the Mueller report is not good news for Mr. Trump. Mueller took time
to point out that the report did not exonerate Trump on obstruction charges and
suggested that Congress should investigate further. He also listed many
instances of bad
behavior, lies, and general corruption by President Trump and his
subordinates. After the Mueller report, it is almost impossible for Donald
Trump to be re-elected.
The damage goes beyond Mr. Trump himself to other members of
his team. Hope
Hicks said, “There was no communication between the campaign and any
foreign entity during the campaign,” and Reince
Priebus similarly claimed, “We didn’t interface with the Russians” when in
fact there were many secret contacts between Team Trump and Russia. Press Secretary Sarah
Huckabee Sanders admitted to making things up at press conferences. Even Attorney
General Barr’s original letter detailing Mueller’s findings shaded the
truth to make Trump look good. Trump’s bad behavior has damaged the reputations
of many people who work for him.
William F. Buckley’s famous advice was that conservatives
should vote for the most conservative candidate who can win. In the
post-Mueller world, that candidate is not Donald Trump. Trump, who very nearly
lost in 2016 and only eked out an Electoral College fluke after James
Comey’s October surprise despite massive Russian intervention on his behalf,
looks to have lost support since his popular vote loss that year. The Mueller
report provides a rich trove of material for attack ads that undermine Donald
Trump’s already shaky credibility. The president’s only chance is that
Democrats nominate another candidate as bad as Hillary Clinton and even that
would not be a sure thing.
If Republicans want to avoid an electoral blowout of epic proportions
next year, they had better uncircle the wagons from around Donald Trump and
find a candidate who has not lost the trust of the public. So far, Weld is the
only Republican who has had the temerity to stand up to Trump and may be the
only conservative alternative. If Republicans continue to stand by Donald Trump
to the bitter end, they deserve the drubbing that they are about to receive.